Reed Smith LLP - True Picture

Jet-setters, rejoice! A host of international secondments await at Reed Smith... Reedy, set, GO!

Reed Smith training contract review 2024

The Firm       

Chatting to lawyers at City firms about the scale of their practice tends to generate the same ‘we are an international firm’ response. But, as Orwell famously wrote: ‘All City firms are international, but some are more international than others.’ Enter Reed Smith. With 31 offices covering Asia, North America, Europe and the Middle East, Reed Smith boasts a truly international offering. The firm has six industry focuses: energy & natural resources, entertainment & media, financial services, healthcare, transportation and life sciences, and bags top-tier Chambersrankings for its work in commodities (physicals and derivatives & energy trading), insurance and shipping, alongside a first-class nod in banking & finance: fund finance in London.

“That balance of working for a big commercial firm, but also making an impact in the pro bono sphere."

The firm doesn’t limit itself to its industry focuses however, and the current cohort were quick to point out that the variety of work on offer was a big part of the draw. As one trainee put it: “You’re able to dip your toe into niche areas [like media or shipping law] without pigeonholing yourself.” Pro bono also plays a big part in the trainee experience at Reed Smith. Graduate recruitment manager Rebecca Schrod explained that “that balance of working for a big commercial firm, but also making an impact in the pro bono sphere,” was what distinguished the experience of trainees at the firm. It’s far from empty sentiment either. There has been 100% participation from trainees in pro bono matters for a decade, and the firm offers a dedicated pro bono seat encompassing work with organisations like Reprieve, Liberty, Safe Passage, and the University House Legal Advice Centre in London.

The Seats

This year, the firm is moving to a new AI system to help manage allocation: “It’s algorithmic now – you list your preferred seats and give them a number rating, then the algorithm takes everyone’s preferences into account.” A few of the trainees we spoke to had reservations about how effective the system would be, but with the option to rate each seat on a scale, there’s room to flag up what you’re hoping for. Trainees were broadly positive about the likelihood of ending up in your seat of choice too. The same applies when it comes to secondments. International secondments have been restricted in the years following the pandemic, but we're pleased to report they're up and running again! Recent opportunities have seen trainees jet off to Paris, Dubai and Singapore.Client secondments are also available, though these are reserved for fourth-seaters. Destinations can range from Barclays to Shell, Amazon to Channel 4, and require an interview with either the client, the relevant partner, or both.

“…your views are treated like everyone else’s, which is always appreciated!”

Reed Smith’s transport practice revolves mostly around a blend of shipping and aviation clients, but those we spoke with had worked mostly on the shipping side. Here the work is handily split between ‘wet’ and ‘dry’ matters (‘wet’ cases are those that happen on the water, ‘dry’ cases revolve around things like contracts, port infrastructure etc.). Therefore, trainees in the seat are likely to come across a mix of transactional, advisory and contentious work. In one recent case, the firm acted for Hapag-Lloyd AG in a $6.7 million claim against owners of the Ever Given following its blocking of the Suez Canal in March 2021 (the realm of ‘wet’ shipping, just to clarify). On the advisory side, “about 30% of it is research or helping my supervisor prepare a presentation for clients,” one trainee told us, with the rest of it encompassing things like first drafts of advice for clients, and writing messages to the other side. “You’re conducting calls with counsel, reviewing submissions and adding comments,” they added, “and your views are treated like everyone else’s, which is always appreciated!”

Across Reed Smith’s wider financial industry group sit a number of practices, including structured finance, banking and finance, financial regulation and restructuring & insolvency. The firm’s banking and finance team works with Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan, Santander, Bank of America, Barclays, HSBC and Silicon Valley Bank (to name a few!), which, for the trainees we spoke to, provided some juicy work to get involved in. “We were tasked with working on ancillary documents” initially, but as trainees gain experience responsibility grows rapidly. The banking and finance team works a lot with the firm’s fund financepractice, which one newbie enthusiastically proclaimed is “the biggest in Europe!” Also falling under the financial industry banner, the financial regulation group at the firm benefits from a cross-sector approach with areas like real estate, commodities and fintech. Newbies in the seat boasted of responsibility “from the get-go,” typically helping with interpretation of regulation, which serves as “a really useful transferable skill.” Clients in the seat include a good number of banks, insurance groups and financial services companies. “Partners would finesse my memo and give me further amendments to make,” one told us, “but I had some matters I was basically running myself, just checking in with the partner occasionally to make sure I wasn’t cocking it up!” In recent years, the firm has served as legal advisers to the CMCE (Commodity Markets Council Europe), advising on regulatory matters affecting the commodity derivatives markets.

It probably won’t come as a huge surprise that entertainment and media is a popular destination for trainees at Reed Smith. With a particular focus on advertising, film & television, music and technology, Reed Smith works for most of the major broadcasters in the UK – the BBC, ITV and Channel 4 – along with music industry heavyweights such as Soundcloud and Sony Music. In one recent deal, the firm acted for Barclays in the financing of the second series of the TV series The Chelsea Detective. Trainees explained that, while there are “lots of research tasks for memos and associate drafts, and helping prepare client-facing presentations for partners,” new starters are on hand to help with the meatier tasks like drafting commercial music agreements, registering charges for film finance and engaging with external counsel.

Despite being a bit of a novelty here in the UK, a pro bono seat at Reed Smith is no laughing matter, with trainees in the seat able to jump on to as broad a range of practices as you’re likely to find as a junior: “Right now there is a lot of focus on environmental and sustainability initiatives,” one trainee explained, which gives trainees in the seat the option to jump on work advising charities on sustainability initiatives, as well as conducting research on sustainability in shipping and aviation for the firm’s flagship transportation practice. “It’s a broad range of specific local and international initiatives,” one trainee told us. There is also your typical advocacy work, helping on immigration matters with asylum cases, and the firm is sending associates to the ground in Ukraine to help refugees with a focus on visas.

Trainee Life

Currently, trainees are “encouraged” to go into the office three times a week, but the general consensus was pretty positive when it came to the associated perks. Not to mention, it’s getting an upgrade: “We’re moving next year,” one trainee told us, “and the new office will be a two-minute walk from Liverpool Street in an area called Blossom Yard.” Rumour has it that “the managing partner is fighting to get a bar in the premises!” one insider told us, which will be stocked with its own café and a wellness room. Training varied by department, but there was big praise in particular for the “online training modules in the pro bono seat, which you can watch as and when you need.”

"When I started out I was nervous to approach senior partners, but now I know they’re always willing to try and make the time for you.”

For the most part our interviews were brimming with praise for their colleagues, though we were informed that the firm “seems to be moving towards becoming more American… everyone is like a swan – relaxed on the outside, frantic in their office!” Another added that “there’s definitely a sense of hierarchy,” but trainees did indicate that this is something that shifts over time. “When I started out I was nervous to approach senior partners, but now I know they’re always willing to try and make the time for you.” The intensity of the work does make socials few and far between on the whole, but this is pretty practice-dependent. “In litigation we sometimes have a couple of low-key drinks after work,” one trainee mused, but “finance are quite good – we have a drinks trolley that comes to our floor and we sometimes order pizza in.” Hours at the firm were at the more reasonable end of the scale too, with most trainees reporting a standard home time of “between 6.30pm and 7pm.” Of course, late nights are part and parcel of the profession, but trainees did point out that these were the exception rather than the rule.

On qualification,trainees noted that there is something of a “competitive” feel to the process, but that partners have been “really supportive,” and the system is pretty transparent, which always helps. Trainees have to put together a pack including feedback collated from over your two years, your CV and a covering letter. Interviews are a given, the intensity of which varies by department, but litigation was seen to be the toughest as “you have to prepare for a case study, and some people even use annual leave to prep for the interview!” Despite this, every interviewee we spoke with was keen on staying, “even though it’s not a sure thing.” We were told Reed Smith offers “genuine partnership opportunities, so if you work hard they will reward you.” Ultimately though, insiders felt “Reed Smith strikes that balance between the quality of the work and trying to keep your sanity!” In 2023, the firm retained 10 of 13 qualifiers.

Help for the Reedy

Trainees even get a generous £350 work from home allowance to set up their home offices.


How to get a Reed Smith training contract 


  • Vacation scheme deadline: 8 January 2024 


Reed Smith receives around 2,000 online applications a year. The process is CV-blind to allow students to get their foot in the door. HR told us that it's a plus when a student has undertaken proactive work with volunteering groups or societies (but it doesn’t have to be legal-related). Candidates can expect to do a psychometric test so the firm can grasp an initial understanding of their strengths. The next stage consists of a video interview. Applications will be screened on a rolling basis, however no one will progress to the next stage until after the deadline. 

Roughly 70 candidates progress to the assessment day. 

Vacation schemes  

Reed Smith runs one-week vacation schemes, one in spring and another in summer. The schemes last for around a week, with applicants sitting in one department during that time. HR confirmed that they like to give people a choice of where they want to sit. The main purpose of the vacation schemes is for the firm to get to know applicants: it wants to know how applicants work and how they work with other vac schemers and others across the firm.  

Reed Smith’s HR team said the vacation scheme aims to provide work that’s fun and slightly different. And, according to their trainees, they did not disappoint: “The vacation scheme was a bit challenging, but I got lots out of it as it didn't have a competitive atmosphere and was more cohesive.”  

Reed Smith does not accept direct applications for training contracts and instead makes offers to those who have completed the vacation scheme and made a good impression. 

Open days  

Reed Smith also holds open days in November. The firm hosts both a face-to-face open day as well as online sessions to ensure they are accessible to those unable to attend in person. These sessions focus on factors such as culture; diversity and inclusion; the SQE process; and application advice for the training contract journey. Open days are not a part of the vacation scheme application journey, but the HR team recommends that prospective candidates attend them to better understand the firm and its culture, as well as its subsequent recruitment process. 

Trainee profile  

Sources told us that the firm does look at factors beyond academic ability. Whilst academics are important, the firm is focused on helping trainees become well-rounded lawyers. This means it is looking for people with commercial awareness and the ability to be innovative in their thinking and approach. Reed Smith is also looking for people who are inclusive. 

Reed Smith works closely with over 15 non-Russell Group universities through society sponsorships and bespoke events, partnering with social mobility groups to host or participate in events. The firm has many networks promoting diversity and inclusivity such as a multicultural network, LGBTQ+ network (also known as PRISM), disability network and more. 

First-Year Scheme 

This year the firm introduced a brand-new scheme for first-year law students, second-year non-law students and those in the second year of a four-year course. 

This is a three-day programme of workshops, shadowing and networking at the offices in London. Following this, applicants are paired with a mentor at the firm who will be on hand to answer any questions they may have about life at Reed Smith. Graduate recruitment stay in touch to let them know about applications for upcoming schemes. 

The first-year scheme is part of the firm's diversity, equity and inclusion mission. 

It is open to students from groups underrepresented in law. This includes students who are: 

• Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic; and/or 

• educated in a state school non-selective comprehensive; and/or 

• a refugee; and/or 

• from a low-income household; and/or 

• were eligible for free school meals from a state school non-selective comprehensive; and/or 

• have spent more than three months in local authority care; and/or 

• disabled and/or who have and long-term health conditions; and/or 

• identify as LGBTQ+. 

 This paid scheme includes: 

• A three-day insight programme, held in person during summer 

• Mentoring 

• Workshops and case study sessions 

• The opportunity to be fast-tracked through the Vacation Scheme application process in 2023/24 

Reed Smith LLP

Broadgate Tower,
20 Primrose Street,

Firm profile

We are dynamic international law firm dedicated to helping clients move their businesses forward. With an inclusive culture and innovative mindset, we deliver smarter, more creative legal services that drive better outcomes for our clients.

Main areas of work

Our practice groups include: commercial disputes, energy and natural resources, entertainment and media, finance, real estate and transportation. Our lawyers work with some of the most innovative organisations in the world — from multi-billion dollar Silicon Valley giants to national banks. We have even represented some of the biggest pop stars on the planet. 

Training opportunities

Ambitious and entrepreneurial graduates are rewarded at Reed Smith with a training programme that is supportive, challenging and exciting, offering unparalleled client and international secondments. Our unique culture, which allows trainees to turn passions into careers, is one of the reasons our lawyers remain with us for such a long time, moving seats, jobs roles and even countries, but sticking with the firm.

During our Professional SQE Programme, our Future Trainees study for the SQE examinations and work part time at Reed Smith for 2 days per week during placement periods. This concurrent studying and working allows them to complete an applied Masters-level Professional Project related to the work they are doing, and have the opportunity to gain a solid foundation in business skills and the elements of an innovative and “O Shaped” lawyer.

We recruit our future Trainees through our Vacation Schemes only. During this round of recruitment, we will be looking for candidates that wish to start their Training Contract (Qualifying Work Experience) in 2025 or 2026.

Vacation placements

Our Spring and Summer vacation schemes offer students the opportunity to gain an insight into life at Reed Smith, as well as providing a solid account of the type of work encountered as a trainee. Applications will close on 8th January 2024 at 5pm.

On a scheme, students will experience one or two practice areas of their choice. Alongside their seats, students will also have the opportunity to attend various sessions to improve their legal and business skills. These include a pro bono exercise and a variety of workshops, covering topics such as cultural intelligence, presentation skills, and business development. These sessions, alongside feedback from the seats and a final interview, allow the Graduate Recruitment Team to assess suitability for becoming a Reed Smith Trainee. Additionally, throughout the vacation scheme, the attendees will get to experience the real culture of our firm through informal, relaxed socials alongside our trainees.

Other benefits

In addition to a competitive salary (£50,000 moving to £55,000 in year 2), our trainee solicitor benefits package includes: 25 days’ annual holiday, cycle to work scheme, subsidised cafeteria, discounted gym membership, permanent health insurance, dental insurance, season ticket loan and much more.

Open days and first-year opportunities

Our Open Days will be great opportunities to get to know the firm. This year we will be hosting in person open days as well as a virtual open day. The Face to Face Open Days in the London Office will take place on 

- 7th and 14th November. In addition, we will be running an Open Day in our Leeds Office on 29th November. This event is aimed at those based close to Leeds and will cover our Paralegal Opportunities as well as our London Training Contract.

The First-Year Scheme will take place in summer 2024, and will involve a three-day programme of workshops, shadowing and networking at our London offices. Applications are open until 12th February 2024. 

University law careers fairs 2023/2024

We will be hosting and attending a mix of events in partnership with universities and societies, as well as through partners such as Legal Cheek, All About Law, Bright Network, and Aspiring Solicitors.

Diversity, inclusion and wellbeing

At Reed Smith, we are passionate about diversity, equity and inclusion. We value our people regardless of their race, gender, sexual identity, religion, background, age, or where they were born. Everyone matters here. Through inclusion, we encourage stronger performance, collaboration, teamwork and innovation in all we do.

As leaders in driving the progress of diversity and inclusion, we have a unique approach: unlike traditional diversity programs, ours is focused on inclusion. We want everyone to be included, at every level. Our inclusion culture also makes commercial sense. By focusing on how all our diverse individuals can feel included, we increase their engagement, opportunities, and involvement. We boost their chances of promotion and compensation. And this supports our recruitment of the best people – from all kinds of backgrounds and will all kinds of experience – who bring us the best results.

Our internal networks:
Multicultural Network (MCN) – promotes cultural diversity within the firm, with a focus on attracting, recruiting, and promoting individuals from multicultural and ethnic minority backgrounds.

LEADRS (Looking for Excellence and Advancement of Persons with Disabilities at Reed Smith) – supports and enhances the professional and personal development of those with all types of disabilities, both mental and physical. It helps us show that jobs for people with disabilities are both available and achievable at the top of the legal profession.

PRISM (Pride, Respect and Inclusion Simply Matter) – champions inclusion for LGBT+ individuals, and acts as a forum for socialising, mentoring and networking in our firm and the wider LGBT+ community.

WINRS (Women’s network) – a growing global community dedicated to enhancing our workplace to more effectively develop, reward, engage, and attract women in the legal profession.

This Firm's Rankings in
UK Guide, 2023

Ranked Departments

    • Banking & Finance: Fund Finance (Band 1)
    • Banking & Finance: Lenders: Mid-Market (Band 3)
    • Commercial and Corporate Litigation (Band 4)
    • Construction: Non-contentious (Band 5)
    • Corporate/M&A: £100-800 million (Band 4)
    • Employment: Employer (Band 3)
    • Information Technology & Outsourcing (Band 4)
    • Intellectual Property (Band 4)
    • Pensions (Band 5)
    • Real Estate: £150 million and above (Band 5)
    • Asset Finance: Aviation Finance (Band 3)
    • Asset Finance: Shipping Finance (Band 2)
    • Banking Litigation (Band 4)
    • Capital Markets: Securitisation (Band 4)
    • Commodities: Derivatives & Energy Trading (Band 1)
    • Commodities: Physicals (Band 1)
    • Commodities: Trade Finance (Band 2)
    • Data Protection & Information Law (Band 3)
    • Financial Services: Non-contentious Regulatory (Band 4)
    • Insurance: Mainly Policyholders (Band 1)
    • International Arbitration: Commercial Arbitration (Band 5)
    • International Arbitration: Investor-State Arbitration (Band 3)
    • Media & Entertainment: Film & Television (Band 3)
    • Media & Entertainment: Games, Interactive Entertainment & Social Media (Band 2)
    • Media & Entertainment: Music (Band 3)
    • Real Estate Finance (Band 6)
    • Shipping (Band 1)

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